Saturday, 22 September, 2018


Our Sister Galaxy Was Eaten By The Andromeda Galaxy

The “Lost Twin” Of The Milky Way Found 2 Billion Years After It Collided And Merged With Andromeda Galaxy Our Sister Galaxy Was Eaten By The Andromeda Galaxy
Kristine Garrett | 26 July, 2018, 21:30

Scientists have discovered the remnants of a galaxy hiding in plain sight.

Our nearest galactic neighbor is the Andromeda galaxy and it seems that it has been concealing a dark past. The Milky Way and Andromeda are hurtling toward each other at 248,000 miles per hour and will eventually collide in about four billion years, creating a new galaxy some have dubbed Milkomeda.

Astronomers said that - billions of years ago - the disrupted galaxy, M32p, was the third-largest member of our Local Group of galaxies. "We realized that we could use information from the outer halo of Andromeda to infer the properties of the largest galaxy that had been crushed".

"It was a "eureka" moment".

That almost invisible halo of stars grabbed the attention of postdoctoral researcher Richard D'Souza and professor Eric Bell at the University of Michigan's department of astronomy. Apparently, the Milky Way had a sibling galaxy, but Andromeda just ate it all up, no biggie. D'Souza and Bell think that an odd satellite galaxy of Andromeda called M32 is the lost galaxy's corpse - the bones left behind after the big, nasty spiral munched off M32p's meat.

"The timing of the merger may also explain the thickening of the disk of the Andromeda galaxy as well as a burst of star formation 2 billion years ago, a finding which was independently reached by another team earlier this year".

Their research is changing the way that galaxy growth and mergers are understood.

"Astronomers have been studying the Local Group - the Milky Way, Andromeda and their companions - for so long", said co-author of the study, Eric Bell. The galaxy would have been a massive lunch, about 20 times larger than anything our own Milky Way has ever eaten.

'While it looks like a compact example of an old, elliptical galaxy, it actually has lots of young stars.

It was the equivalent of a muddy footprint to help them unlock the mystery of which galaxy those stars once belonged to. It was shocking to realize that the Milky Way had a large sibling, and we never knew about it. "M32 is a weirdo", Bell continued. Probably M32p felt a surge of star formation caused by the flow of gas in the center of the galaxy as the merger with the Andromeda galaxy, which is about two billion years ago also experienced a burst of star formation, which formed about a fifth of its stars.

This new results are important not only because they help shed light on the formation history of the largest galaxy in our local neighborhood, but also because they question conventional wisdom regarding how galaxies evolve following massive collisions. Because of that, it's not unusual for a galaxy of that mass to effectively cannibalize other nearby galaxies nearby. According to the researchers, the fact that Andromeda's spiral disk managed to survive the impact means that galactic disks may be much more resilient to impacts than astronomers previously thought.

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